Head chef of Kew’s Mister Bianco, Joseph Vargetto, has opened his latest restaurant in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD. Named after his younger son, MASSI offers an intimate dining experience with modern Sicilian dishes, plated up on GT Homewares. Recently we caught up with Joseph to discuss his culinary inspiration, the process of recipe creation and the importance of leaving a lasting impression.
What are some simple ways people can add a Sicilian touch to their cooking?
Sicily has a long and varied history but a few tricks is, season, fresh produce like oranges, lemons and pistachio.
What are some fundamental qualities of a successful restaurant?
Fundamental qualities are consistency, resilience, picking trends, high food quality and selecting great passionate staff that will add assured quality because you cannot do it alone.
How important is food presentation and tableware in your restaurants?
People eat with their eyes so you must continue to evolve as a restaurant bring new styles to the table and doing interesting things your customers cant do at home.
Do you have a particular process you go through when creating a new recipe?
The process is quite simple 1. Season 2. Textures like crisp, zesty and lushes mouth feel using local produce.
Who is your culinary idol and why?
My culinary idol would be Mario Batali as he has still works in his kitchens and has created a very authentic Italian style that is admired worldwide.
What would you say your biggest achievement has been so far?
There are many but I think as a sole owner and operator with no partners of 2 thriving restaurants Mister Bianco and newly opened MASSI, I enjoy the growth and working with the employees who I treat like family and been with me for a long time.
If you had to describe yourself in one dish, what would it be?
Spaghetti alla Norma, freshly made pasta, tomato and basil ripened in the sun and the authentic love eggplant of Sicily.
How did working in Italy change your perspective on cooking?
The Italian kitchen is made up of many micro kitchens from top to bottom of the peninsula of Italy. It is rooted in “la cucina povera” poor mans food but it’s the consistent pursuit of freshness and artisan hard work that highlighted to me very quickly it’s all about flavour.
What is the food philosophy behind Massi?
The food philosophy is really a culmination of my travels in Italy, mainly the mountains that boarder Italy and Austria Tirol. The produce is amazing and thoughtful.
What would you like the lasting impression to be when people leave your restaurants?
It must be like coming home, we have many regular customers, so its needs to be an impression that we care and they are planning their next visit.